Time Limitations and Tolling Considerations
04/05/2021By: Whitney Judson
The COVID-19 pandemic has required a temporary pause on continuing business and life as we once did. This temporary pause extended to statutory litigation deadlines in the State of Georgia.
Of course, civil claims are subject to a statute of limitations, which sets out strict time constraints on when a plaintiff may file a legal claim. The time limitation that a plaintiff is allotted to bring a legal claim may vary depending upon the specific claim being asserted and the jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is filed. Understanding the statute of limitations applicable to a plaintiff’s claims is important to the defense of a lawsuit, as a properly-asserted statute of limitations defense can strike a fatal blow to a plaintiff’s claims before extensive time and expenses are invested into defending a lawsuit.
When Covid-19 began to spread in March of 2020, the Georgia Supreme Court issued an unprecedented Order declaring a Statewide Judicial Emergency, which suspended all litigation deadlines and filing requirements normally imposed by statutes. This suspension of deadlines included those imposed by statutes of limitation.
Initially, the tolling of litigation deadlines was set to expire on April 13, 2020. As the coronavirus pandemic persisted, however, the Supreme Court extended the suspension of litigation deadlines a total of twelve times, with the latest extension being implemented on March 9, 2021. As of July 14, 2020, however, with the fourth extension of the Georgia Supreme Court’s Order, statutory deadlines (such as the statute of limitations in civil cases) were reimposed upon litigants.
Altogether, statutes of limitation for civil claims were tolled for total of around 4 months (March to July of 2020). Going forward, this relatively brief tolling period will impact civil filing deadlines for years to come and will make it more challenging to calculate the time limitations imposed upon plaintiffs filing suit. Defenses based on an expiring statute of limitations will still be available, but lawyers and claims analysts must be mindful that this unique tolling period may give a claimant additional time to file his or her claim.